The story of a lady named Margaret McCollum is one of the happiest, most wholesome stories that you are likely to ever read. Gladly, this story is true, and has not been embellished in any way.
Margaret McCollum is a lady that lives in London. She is well-known for attending the Embankment station each day on the London Underground subway system. She does so in tribute to her husband Oswald, who recorded the “mind the gap” announcement decades ago. He has since sadly passed away.
McCollum fought hard to keep Oswald’s legacy intact, in spite of an age where announcements are made digitally. Her tale is proof that despite all the evil going on in the world, good things do happen.
Margaret McCollum was married to Oswald Lawrence. The duo happily lived in London together, with Oswald working as an actor and voice artist, while McCollum had a distinguished career as a GP.
Among Oswald’s work was to voice the iconic “mind the gap” phrase that is said as the tube pulls up to each station, cautioning customers to be careful of the gap between the train and the platform. Oswald was responsible for recording the announcements for the London Underground’s Northern Line.
Oswald sadly passed away in 2007. The loss devastated Margaret. However, she had a way of easing her pain, and this was to visit the Embankment station each day to hear Oswald’s voice as the tube arrived at each station.
While Oswald was gone, his voice was enough to mean Margaret was comforted. She later told how on days where she was particularly sad, that she would remain on the platform for a while, to continue hearing his voice.
The voice is removed
However, after 5 years, something happened in December 2012 which left Margaret bereft. It turned out that overnight, the voice had changed. Oswald’s dulcet tones were no longer presiding over the announcements.
Margaret approached staff at the station. She asked them where “the voice” had gone. This confused the staff there, who were wondering which “voice” the woman was speaking to.
Margaret explained which voice she meant – the one that said “mind the gap”. The staff told her that the station’s announcements had become digitised, allowing for a modern system to be used.
But Margaret explained about how the original speech was recorded by her late husband, Oswald. Margaret explained about how Oswald’s passing had left a hole in her life, but that the “mind the gap” announcement had helped her cope.
Unfortunately, the tube staff told Margaret about how a new digital system was being rolled out all around the London Underground. But they did promise to look for past recordings for her.
While many people would have left it there, the tube staff went the extra mile. The staff set about finding the recording. They searched through archives of past recordings, before digitising them. Once the recording had been found, work was done to try and restore the voice.
The staff had to go through the usual bureaucratic measures to get the voice recording approved. Without doubt, along the way there would have been people that failed to see the need for the recording. But thankfully, good prevailed.
At the start of 2013, Margaret’s dreams were realised, as Oswald’s voice was restored to the announcement. Margaret had believed the voice gone forever. Instead, Oswald’s voice delivered the “mind the gap” command.
This is a rather unique case. Many years on, Embankment station remains the only station on the Northern Line which has a different voice saying “mind the gap”. Oswald lives on.
The popular Instagram account All on the Board, which posts motivational and commemorative messages on the Underground’s “Service Information” boards commented. The account is run by two writers who work on the Underground.
They confirmed that this account is true. They revealed how Oswald’s voice plays three times for every train, before a staff member takes over for any additional announcements. They commented on how “wonderful” it was to know the difference it makes for Margaret.
As anyone that has lost someone they loved can attest to – even the smallest things that bring back memories of them can be comforting. It is great that Margaret was able to make this happen, and ensure Oswald’s legacy will remain.
It is also refreshing to see many different people and groups coming together towards a common goal. The simple skill of empathy is missing a lot currently. However, this story suggests otherwise, and is heart-warming to see.